The ancient earth hundreds of millions of years ago in the carboniferous period, had a very different vegetation and contained vast forests filled with giant club mosses, which grew to one hundred feet in height - such primeval forest dominated the landscape of the early earth millions of years before man even appeared on the planet. The remains of these ancient giants in their petrified form constitute the coal and other fossil fuels of today - these giant ancient plants were related to the humble club moss of today, hence the club moss is an extant member of a very old plant family. Over eons, as new plants such as the flowering plants dominated the landscape and evolved, the giant primeval relatives of the club moss died out and only smaller relatives such as the club moss evolved into the present form surviving the extinction of its giant cousins. The club moss is a small sized plant possessing a ground hugging stem that can reach lengths of up to four feet when fully grown. The club moss is characterized by possessing dense spirals of yellow green colored leaves and is a low growing evergreen plant, having a three foot long stem that runs along the ground. The club moss propagates itself by giving off spores, these are produced in two or three cylindrical and yellow green colored cones that are borne on six inch long stalks - these cones carry the reproductive organs, consisting of a multitude of very small and yellow spores. Club moss has a botanical name - Lycopodium - that can be loosely translated into "club-shaped wolf's claw," this is a fancy term that describes the club shaped cones as well as suggesting a similarity in the outward form between a wolf's claw and the root of the plant.
The old name of the club moss is vegetable sulfur; this is a direct reference to the highly flammable oil contained in the powder formed by the abundant yellow spores of the running club moss. In older times, this flammable powder from the club moss was often made use of by stage designers to create stage lightning for their plays; the spore also formed the basis of the flash powder in the earliest days of photography. Club moss spores were once used as a baby powder and even as an absorbent dusting powder in the early days of surgery. Disorders like kidney stones and urinary tract infections were once treated using remedies that contained both the spores and the whole club moss plant.
Medicinal use of the club moss started quite early in Europe, and may have begun as early as the Middle Ages, when the plant was used as a major constituent in many herbal remedies. For example, kidney stones were eliminated and flushed out of the system using a remedy made from the whole plant, in this role, the club moss was used as a diuretic remedy. Some tablets are still coated using the spores of the club moss, which make excellent waterproof coverings as they are very resistant to water. Fireworks and explosives are also prepared from the club moss spores, which can ignite very explosively and are highly flammable.
Club mosses were the dominant land plants during the Carboniferous period, which was 360 million years ago, flowering plants had not yet arrived on the evolutionary scene and club mosses grew to enormous sizes as they were the only land plants around. Club mosses are primitive vascular plants and even though the name may suggest a relation with the mosses, the plants are not true mosses. A variety of the club moss called stone pine is grown as an ornamental potted plant in China. One of the commercial uses of the club moss spores, as already mentioned, lies in using the highly water resistant spores of the plant in powder form to coat pharmaceutical pills, this keeps the pill from sticking to each other when they are packed together, and the use of the club moss spore coating also disguises the taste of the pill. Before electricity was discovered and put to use, the very flammable club moss spores were utilized in producing fireworks as well as to produce special effects in theaters of the old days.
In traditional medical systems of Europe, club moss was used for treating kidney and bladder related disorders, the whole club moss plant was subjected to drying, it would then be chopped, and then used in the preparation of a herbal tea for the patient to drink. Disorders such as diarrhea and dysentery, rabies induced hydrophobia, problems such as gout, the scurvy, and rheumatism began to be treated using the club moss spores in the early 17th century. Lycopodium is the name given to the homeopathic remedies prepared from the club moss; this remedy is made by triturating the club moss in a lactose solution until the spores begin to disintegrate and the oily contents escape into the sugar solution. Disorders such as constipation, the chronic lung and bronchial disorders affecting patients, conditions such as aneurysms, and a persistent fever are homeopathically treated using this club moss based remedy.
A potent anti-spasmodic, a sedative as well as diuretic actions are evident in the club moss; these qualities of the plant are especially effective in the treatment of chronic urinary complaints and disorders in the urinogenital system of patients. Disorders such as persistent indigestion and gastritis can also be treated using the herbal remedy based on the club moss. Itchy, irritated areas on the skin can also be protected and alleviated by application of the prepared club moss spores as a topical herbal treatment.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
The club moss is a plant found mainly in comparatively colder latitudes and is not found in the tropics. Wild populations of the club moss are all concentrated in the temperate regions of the world, lying in the northern hemisphere - the club moss grows in the wild in all temperate areas in the northern regions of the world. The plant also inhabits higher altitudes, and elevated mountains and grassy areas in highlands often have wild populations of the club moss. Summer is the season for the collection, sorting and harvest of the club moss from the wild - the club moss is not cultivated.
Dosages of different preparations made from the club moss differ and depend on the patient as well. An infusion prepared from the club moss by boiling small cut pieces of the plant in about one oz. to pint boiling water can be used for treatment. A single cupful of this herbal club moss infusion taken once during the day, one large mouthful every dose for the entire duration of the treatment period is sufficient for most people.